The Agriculture Ministry has set up two committees — one for nationwide implementation of technology-based crop yield estimation and the other for standardisation and improvement of weather data infrastructure. The move will reduce the delay in crop loss/damage estimation and ensure timely settlement of claims by farmers, officials said.

In two separate notifications, issued on October 21, the Ministry said panels will be headed by the director of Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC). Apart from experts drawn from different departments and agencies of the Centre, the committees will have representation from Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan governments.

After paddy and wheat in 2020-21, the Agriculture Ministry has decided to carry out more pilot studies, this time on non-cereal crops for gram Panchayat level yield estimation of current kharif crops and rabi harvest (March-April) next year, a senior official said. “These studies will help analyse the issues to be dealt with when the pan-India rollout of technology-based yield estimation begins from 2023-24,” said the official. The panel on yield estimation has been asked to submit its report within 45 days, he added. It will prepare standard operating procedure (SOP) as well as enrol technology implementation partners (TIPs) from which States have to select anyone, the official said.

Tasks for the panels

The committee, also to be headed by the director of MNCFC, has been tasked to help the Ministry in the creation of the proposed Weather Information Network Data System (WINDS), under which a system of automatic weather stations (AWS) and automatic rain gauges (ARG) will be implemented throughout the country. Weather data like rainfall, temperature and humidity are key to calculate yield of crops under weather-based crop insurance scheme as well as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).

It has been observed that there has been delay in yield estimation leading to late assessment of crop damage and acceptance of claims by insurance companies, officials said. The technology infusion will help cut the delay as using drones and through satellite mapping, the yield estimation will be more accurate. “The pilot projects have shown that the accuracy level is 90-95 per cent when technology is used, instead of doing it manually through conventional methods,” said an agritech company’s CEO whose firm had conducted some pilots of wheat and rice for the MNCFC.

Free from manipulation

“One main aspect is that technology will be free from manipulation and always can be challenged through a manual verification whereas whatever be the manually-done yield estimate, it is final,” the official said.

For the 2020 kharif crops, harvested in October-December, over 49 lakh farmers in Madhya Pradesh received their crop insurance claims totalled ₹7,618 crore under the flagship PMFBY in February 2022 only after the State government finalised the yield data.

The yield estimation will also help the government to validate the countrywide crop production estimate, the official said, adding the government has been working on integration of data generated by private agencies with official information. Agriculture Secretary Manoj Ahuja in July had stressed on the need for synergy between government and industry in sharing information on crop estimates for stronger results.